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How the Internet has benefited reporting

John Carroll

Former editor, Los Angeles Times

John Carroll

The Web has really done us a great service by creating the blogs and creating the opportunities for more voices to be heard. I still think that there's a need for trained, full-time, professional reporters who are overseen by trained, full-time, professional editors. If I'm an editor and I get something from a citizen journalist, I really have to re-report it just to make sure that this person isn't a crackpot, to make sure that the facts are right. ... It's great ... information, but it's not sufficient. ...

 
Brian Ross

Chief investigative correspondent, ABC News

Brian Ross

[Tell me about this blog that your unit is running at ABC News.]

If "blog" means we're just sort of free-associating, putting things on without checking them out, that's not what we have. So we called it The Blotter. ... We think of ourselves as reporters, putting on stories quickly and as they evolve, but they still go through the same fact checking and background checking that ABC News would do for any story.

Labor-intensive?

It's very labor-intensive. It is not something you sit down and just knock out.

Which explains why your unit's getting bigger.

Well, part of it is that, yeah. This daily Blotter we do has gone from about zero to 2.5 million [page views] a month in just four months. There seems to be a real appetite for it, and so we're putting more of our own resources in there. What ends up happening a lot is stories that might not otherwise make the World News [Tonight] or be enough for a magazine show do make it on The Blotter. ...

The Internet has allowed you as a reporter to make more information available?

Without a doubt, and it has the effect then of actually [serving] as a way to cultivate sources and work sources and develop sources. More stories bring more stories, I always think. So we get people now calling in with ideas for The Blotter, people who have heard about it. They want to come up with stories more over the transom, which is unusual. ...

What's your reaction to what people call citizen journalism on the Web?

It's interesting. There's so much of it, I think, in the end, you need somebody to sort of tell you what is important. It comes back to the editing function. But I love reading all of that; to me it's fascinating. The one thing that we've added in The Blotter, for instance, is a place for people to comment. Some stories will provoke really hundreds if not thousands of responses and internal debates and criticism of us: Why would you put a story like that on the air? And then somebody else will respond, "Well, of course that's what they're supposed to do."

It's fascinating to watch it. ... That's a great thing that we can do that, because you don't really get that on television, but you do get it here. ...

Editor's Note: After this interview was conducted, in September 2006, a reader of The Blotter submitted a lead via e-mail, which led Ross and his team to investigate Rep. Mark Foley's (R-Fla.) correspondence with members of the congressional page program. Foley resigned from Congress over the ensuing scandal.

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posted feb. 13, 2007; last updated feb. 27, 2007

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